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Children With Disabilities Gifted With Adapted Toys By RePlay For Kids

1 1/2-year-old Isaiah Crittenden will be spending his first Christmas at home. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]
1 1/2-year-old Isaiah Crittenden lies in his stroller at the RePlay for Kids adapted toy giveaway.

Alaina McCruel and her son Isaiah spent last Christmas in the neonatal intensive care unit. Isaiah is now 1 1/2 years old and despite the oxygen tank he uses for his chronic lung disease, Isaiah gets to spend this Christmas at home with his family. 

"It's just hard being away from home. This will be his first Christmas at home with all of his new toys that he can use however he likes. It's exciting," McCruel said. 

Isaiah's breathing equipment makes it difficult for him to play with a lot of toys, she said. To find toys catered to his needs, McCruel did some Christmas 'shopping' at an adapted toy giveaway.

Parents and caretakers received free toys that were re-engineered to be more useful for children with disabilities.

For example, some toys have buttons that can be difficult to push. Volunteer engineers can wire up the controls to make them easier to use.

"This gives him a chance to be a kid," McCruel said.

RePlay for Kids, a nonprofit organization that repairs and adapts toys for children with disabilities throughout the year, hosted the toy giveaway in partnership with the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

"These adaptations aren't that hard to do," said Bill Memberg, the founder and president of RePlay. "That's why we're able to make so many. It provides so many kids with so many opportunities to play that they didn't have before." 

Kathy Zielinski, Manager of Speech and Language Therapy Services at the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, said she was glad to see families as well as representatives from other agencies such as schools and achievement centers at the giveaway.

“The fact that we’re seeing families here, as well as different representatives from different agencies…it’s a win for agencies and it’s a win for the families,” Zielinski said. 

A group of students from St. Joseph Academy High School in Cleveland, including senior Reagan Bushok, helped RePlay engineer the adapted toys.

"We spend so much time to rewire and learn the electrical engineering behind it, but it’s such a difference when you see the smiles on their faces and how happy the work makes them," Bushok said. 

RePlay has been hosting the adapted toy giveaway for more than a decade. 

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.